Developmental Writing Update

Well, my friends, I have survived two more days of developmental writing. What's more, so have most of my students.

On Wednesday, I entered the class, sat down with them, and had a talk. I told them that I knew that none of them had voluntarily chosen to take developmental writing. And, I said that this was my only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday course, so I drive across town at six-thirty in the morning just to see them. "So," I said, "Let's try to have some fun in this class. Let's try to enjoy the process." I asked if any of them had any ideas for making the class more enjoyable.


Then we listened to David Sedaris reading an essay about when he was an elf at Macy's.

Silence. No smiles.

So, I had them write. First they did some freewriting. Then I asked them to write about a time when they had a conflict with someone. I had them read this to the person sitting next to them. Then I had them write about the same conflict from the point of view of the other person. Then I had a couple of people read their writing. It was okay.

This morning, I talked for a couple of minutes about why I think writing is so important. I then showed them a film with speeches by Sojourner Truth, John Ball, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We I talked about what made those speeches so effective, and then I let them go.

I did hand out some journals, per Kim's advice. We didn't have time to write today, but I told them that they should expect to write in the journal every day and to turn it in every once in awhile for my comments.

The attitudes seem a little more open, though my young woman did spend the last five minutes of class loading her backpack.

Thanks for all the wonderful hints and ideas. I'll continue to fight the good fight and to update you on our progress.


They didn't laugh at David Sedaris?! Good heavens. You do have a tough group.

What are their backgrounds?

I used to have some good stand-bys to get kids to talking and discussing things. Sadly, I've lost my memory ever since I turned 46. I'll try to remember the authors and names of books. I used to have a book -- a memoir -- with short chapters that were really great for discussions. Then I'd have my students write some of their memories. That would usually get a few of them going.

See how I love giving advice for classroom? Funny... I couldn't hack it as a teacher. Good on you for teaching.

I so hope you can spark a few of them. Words are power. If only they knew!!!
Julie Pippert said…
See, this is why I have the motto, "Those who can, do, and those who can do more, teach," hanging in my office. It's a real talent and demanding job.

Do they have any kind of common obstacle? Or is it various reasons for needing developmental writing? And kind of common level of ability at all? Or all over the map?

I can't believe they didn't laugh at Sedaris.

I'd suggest something creative like a comedy sketch but wow, with no sense of humor I can't imagine how that would work.


You'll find their currency.

Good luck!
Mrs. G. said…
Not one laugh? Not one smile? This scares me a little. Are you sure you aren't teaching cyborgs? Girl, I don't envy you this one.
K. said…
Yes, tough crowd.

But it still seems to me that you're making an impression, and the right one. I think, putting myself in their place for a moment, just the fact that you sat down with them and laid it out there, asking for input, was a fabulous first step. I think any changes that are going to happen with this group will start from the inside where it isn't easy for you to see. Just remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.

Thanks for the update - keep fighting the good fight. You are truly amazing.
Mrs. Chicken said…
It's so hard for me to understand kids like this. For me, writing was always so fun. I wish I had some words of wisdom. If David Sedaris doesn't do it for them ... who will??
Claire B. said…
Wow. I can't imagine how difficult it is to find a connection with these kids. Maybe they just cannot picture Macy's in NYC at Christmas time, or David Sedaris as Crumpet. Maybe their idea of humor is that redneck guy (whose name I do not know) and DS's humor is like a foreign language. I admire you for your creativity. I believe they have to be remembering bits of the speech film throughout the day. They could be thinking about it right now. It's possible, isn't it?

JCK said…
Oh, you sound like my dream of a writing teacher... I'm so jealous of those lucky students.
Good luck having fun with people that don't laugh at David Sedaris. Maybe they'll warm up; I've found that when I take 8 a.m. classes I'm often the only one, besides the teacher, who is awake.

They're lucky to have a teacher that's making such an effort.
Mike Golch said…
writing is supposed to be fun,insperational and eye opening.if you did not get a responce out of your class are the dumb or are just so tuned out that nothing fazes them??
I had a great cpolpe of professors whe I was attending Sacramento city back in the '70s.One name I still ermembe rto this day Larkie Gildersleeve. she was a great human being and unlike most of the profs there she would be sitting in the courtyard haveing a cofee and would enjoy haveing conversations with the students even if they were not in her class.
Misty said…
with you being so open and candid with them, AND expecting them to make an effort- i predict things will continue to improve.
but really... they sound like barrels of fun.
Mrs. T said…
Not one smile at David Sedaris? Are they robots???
we_be_toys said…
How could they sit through David Sedaris' account of being a Macy's elf and NOT laugh? Inconceivable - are these students MOSTLY dead?

Nice picture of Sojourner Truth - I just love her.
Cheri said…
Who are these students? I want to take the class (although the commute would not be fun). I wonder if any of them have blogs, or MySpace, or Facebook. Surely they do. I wonder if they write there, and if they would let you look.

Anyway, I popped over after visiting Derfwad Manor.

See you again soon.
Melanie said…
Kids! Sedaris? The Macy's elf story? COME ON. That is FUNNY. Little bastards.

Well, it's sweaty-toothed-mad-man time, Karen. I'm sorry.
Shweta said…
Hi Karen,
I just started my online presence with start of developing a website for myself. Hope to have it finished within few days. Basically, I am an artist from India and would like to keep myself updated about chances of exposure in states for people like me who has been in this field since last 7 years. I would really appreciate your guidance on this. I held 6 exhibitions / solo shows till now, and will be holding one in next month in Pune, India.

Would like to be in touch with you.
merlotmom said…
Hi Karen, Thanks for visiting my blog. I like yours as well. I feel for you with this deadbeat class but don't let them get to you. Keep reading Sedaris and they'll have to break a smile eventually! If not, I'd call 911.
Ophelia Rising said…
Good for you! Keep up the good fight.

Did you see Frontline lately, with the topic of the Internet and Teenagers? It was frightening and somewhat eye-opening at the same time. Yikes. Is all I can say.

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